narcissists, psychology

Sometimes you simply have to call bullshit…

This morning, I read an article about Olympic swimmer, 36 year old Ryan Lochte. He’s currently estranged from his mother Ileana Lochte. In an interview with Graham Bensinger, Lochte explained that in 2011, when his mother had divorced his father, Steven Lochte, everyone had been on her side. But then when Ryan told his mother she was going to be a grandmother, she apparently said some very hurtful things and refused to apologize for them. And now, Ryan and his mother have been estranged for a few years. He hasn’t spoken to her. By contrast, he and his father and stepmother are now on very good terms.

I’ve often reflected on how perspectives change as we grow older. When I was a child, things were a lot simpler. Or, at least they seemed that way. I saw things in more black and white terms. All of my friends and relatives were “good”. All of the kids in school who bullied me were “bad”. But then, as I got older, I started to see everyone in a different light. At some point, people I thought were all good developed some very noticeable character defects. Or really, I just noticed them for the first time. By contrast, people I had thought were all bad all of a sudden seemed more human and decent to me. This expanded vision is ultimately a good and necessary thing, but it’s also kind of heartbreaking. Especially when I have good memories of some of these folks, but I know that we’ll probably never speak again.

I think this phenomenon happens to most people who are at least somewhat psychologically healthy. But it’s disconcerting and sometimes very sad when the whole truth comes out about someone we love, or even just like. I think that’s what might be happening with my husband’s children right now.

Last night, Bill talked with his younger daughter, who is struggling with some stuff. She and her husband are in their mid 20s, trying to survive in this pandemic craziness and pay their bills. They have two small children, and as Mormons, are very much involved with their family. Fortunately, younger daughter inherited a lot of Bill’s character and she’s committed to being a good mom.

All of the years, when younger daughter was growing up, Ex’s story was that she was all about taking care of her family. In fact, some years ago, I remember reading a bullshit news story about Ex that appeared in a local newspaper. She claimed that she’d arrived in Arizona in a used van with just $3000 and a dream. She didn’t mention that she was getting child support faithfully every month and that my husband could see to it that the children had medical care. Nope– her narrative was that she was a supermom, doing it ALL alone and handling everything brilliantly. It was such a load of shit!

Bill was faithfully paying her $2550 a month in child support, more than what a general officer would have paid for three children at that time. One of the children he was supporting wasn’t even legally his child. Because Bill was in the military, his children were entitled to military ID cards. They also had access to full medical benefits and free care at military treatment facilities. And yet, Ex chose not to avail herself of these valuable benefits for her children. In fact, she evidently acted as if she didn’t care when younger daughter needed medical attention.

Younger daughter had some physical problems that needed care. Her mother made a huge deal out of the inconvenience and expense of seeking care and implied that she couldn’t afford it. Consequently, those issues went neglected, and now younger daughter is paying a price that may cost her for the rest of her life.

Some people might read this and wonder where Bill was. Well… he tried to stay in touch with Ex and asked her repeatedly about the children. Once she realized that he was going to persist in being involved with the children, she went on a very effective alienation campaign. He really tried to be a good father as best as he was able. But Ex had so effectively alienated Bill’s daughters and ex stepson that no one would speak to him. She moved them to a different state and neglected to inform Bill. We found out about the move through Internet sleuthing. In any case, when these issues were occurring, younger daughter was almost an adult anyway, and wouldn’t speak to Bill. But her mother was freaking out over having to pay several hundred dollars for special equipment that would have helped her daughter function better. She implied that she wasn’t getting any help from Bill, which was patently untrue.

Later, when younger daughter was offered a job in Utah, Ex did her best to get her to stay home. She offered her all kinds of stuff– everything from music lessons that she’d always wanted to more money than what younger daughter would make in Utah. Fortunately, younger daughter was smart enough to see through the bullshit and valued her freedom from the craziness more than a few extra bucks (which would not have materialized, anyway). When younger daughter made her decision, Ex did what she always does… sent a long, scathing, insulting letter full of shaming, empty promises, pleading, and berating. Then, in a true act of apparent desperation to maintain control, she allegedly attempted suicide by overdosing on pills. And when that didn’t work, she brutally cut off her daughter (temporarily, of course– in retrospect, permanently cutting her off might have been the kindest thing to do).

Of course, Ex never totally lets anyone go. The beautiful thing about COVID-19, though, is that it makes it much harder for her to travel. Ex, who once told Bill she would never put the children on a plane to see us in Virginia (because of terrorism), would not hesitate to drive or fly thousands of miles and drop in on people unawares. If she ever got a sign that younger daughter was weakening in her resolve, she would absolutely take the opportunity to insert herself and poison her daughter’s relationships or even alienate her own kids from her. That’s how toxic people operate, and I have been watching Ex do it from afar for many years now.

I used to be very angry with my husband’s daughters. I thought they had treated Bill unfairly and were not very bright for rejecting him. Now that we’re hearing the other side, I can see why they did what they did. They were told a lot of lies and raised by a master manipulator who only thinks of herself and her own needs. This morning, Bill said that he used to think that his Ex did these things to be mean and hurtful to him. But now, after comparing notes with his daughter, he realizes that she simply doesn’t care, and that’s even worse than her trying to be hurtful. Because Bill DID care and would have helped them if he’d only known. Those girls didn’t have to suffer as much as they did when they were growing up.

It’s amazing how perspectives change as we age. Five years ago, I never believed I would be writing this about Bill’s daughter. Five years ago, she wouldn’t speak to or about Bill. Now, I realize that she must have been scared. Her mother had built up this image that Bill is an awful man. She told outrageous lies about him and me… things like he abandoned the family to have an affair with me (even though she had moved her boyfriend– now husband #3– into the house while she was still married to Bill) or that the Army was more important than his family (the Army provided excellent pay and benefits he couldn’t get working in a factory– much of which he was sending to Ex as child support).

One of the nice things I have discovered since moving my blog from Blogger is that I get fewer people reading… and leaving me shitty comments because they assume I’ve either made up this story or I’m just a bitter second wife. It’s true that I’m bitter about a lot of things. I despise Bill’s ex wife. That is not a secret. I certainly wouldn’t like her for the way she treated Bill and his kids and other people, but there’s another reason I despise her. It’s because she’s a cruel person. She was very cruel to Bill when they were married. When I say “very cruel”, I mean criminally so… as in, I think she should go to prison for what she did. If she were a man, there would be no question, as long as the crime was reported. Suffice to say, my husband was a victim of domestic violence in his first marriage.

More than once, random people have told me that I have no right to write about these things. They tell me how I “come off” to others and try to silence me from speaking the truth. It’s happened to me repeatedly throughout my life, not just in terms of my husband’s ex wife, but in other situations, too. I’m looking at certain people who have been “interested” in my writing and not wanted me to write about my experiences because they are friends with the other person or because they themselves don’t want to be cast in a bad light. You know what? If you’re doing dirty, dishonest things, you totally deserve to deal with the repercussions of being outed, and I’m done trying to be “positive”, “fair”, and “forgiving” toward people who don’t warrant the consideration. My days of putting up with that shit are over, and it’s a very liberating way to be. Like everyone else, I deserve to be heard and validated, too, even if no one wants to listen to what I have to say (or write). This doesn’t mean, though, that I agree with mobbing people or deliberately trying to ruin their lives. I just think they should have to deal with the natural and inevitable consequences of their bad behavior.

My husband’s daughter, to her credit, has figured this all out a lot younger than her dad and I have. She realizes that some people are simply full of shit and she doesn’t have to waste her time on them. She knows that her mother is full of shit and doesn’t care about her. Her mother couldn’t be bothered to buy inserts for younger daughter’s shoes so she wasn’t in so much pain. Her mother couldn’t be bothered to have her daughter’s spine checked by a doctor and braced so that she didn’t suffer from scoliosis that caused her back problems. She couldn’t be bothered to get in touch with Bill so that those kids could get healthcare. The one time she did contact Bill about their healthcare needs, she asked him to send HER money instead of paying the provider directly. Why? Because that way, she could ask for as much as she wanted and it would go into her pocket… hell, we don’t even know if there ever was a bill that needed to be paid because she wouldn’t send it. Instead, she just tried to demand the money.

The other day, I watched an excellent video by YouTube psychologist, Dr. Ramani, who specializes in talking about narcissists. The video was about “toxic positivity”, which is a real problem in our society today. We have many people who think we always need to be “positive” and “understanding” at all costs. These toxic positivity folks are perfect “flying monkeys” for narcissists, because they always harp on giving people the benefit of the doubt, even when it’s clear that they don’t deserve it.

Well worth watching, if you have the time and inclination.

I have been on the receiving end of a lot of that shit from people… people who have tried to gaslight me into doubting my own instincts and observations in favor of their well spun bullshit. You know what? Letting this kind of thing go– just giving people a break all the time– always leads to being screwed. If you’re a chronically nice and understanding person, you’re are just begging to be screwed over by this type of person. They thrive on people who are always “nice” and “fair” to them. Anyone who has a well-developed sense of shame and a tendency to be forgiving is at risk of being exploited by people like Ex. A little bit of forgiveness is a good thing; don’t get me wrong. But sometimes, you simply have to call bullshit. And bravo to younger daughter for being smart enough and BRAVE enough to do just that. Her dad and I are now working on the same thing.

mental health, rants

Here’s a cookie.

I could so easily write about Donald Trump’s latest nonsense, but I figure enough people are already doing that. Besides, as the campaign season heats up, I’m sure I’ll feel like ranting about his stupidity. So, for now, I’m going to write about gaiters.

Before the stupid COVID-19 pandemic, I had never heard of gaiters. I didn’t know what they were. Yes, I had seen people wearing them, but I wasn’t aware of the term for them and I never wore one myself. One of my friends mentioned that she liked to wear them instead of face masks because they make her feel less claustrophobic than face masks do.

I thought of my friend last week, as the news media reported about a simple study done by researchers at Duke University’s medical school. They were trying to find face coverings for the at-risk and underserved populations in Durham, North Carolina. Having been a student of public health and social work in neighboring South Carolina, I know that there are a lot of poor people in that region. One great mission of the universities down there is to provide assistance to people in poor and rural communities.

So anyway, one of the study’s co-authors, Warren S. Warren, a professor of physics, chemistry, radiology and biomedical engineering at Duke, was quoted as saying “There’s a lot of controversy and people say, ‘Well, masks don’t do anything.’ Well, the answer is some don’t, but most do.”

It was in the news, too.

Then, the news reported that the researchers had found that wearing gaiters might be worse than not wearing a mask at all. Naturally, this finding immediately caused controversy. Gaiter manufacturers, no doubt enjoying the increased sales of their products, rushed to clarify that not all gaiters are created equally. For about a week, people wondered if they should be changing their face coverings… and I’m sure some busybodies wondered if they needed to be confronting strangers about their face coverings.

And then yesterday, there was a news article in The New York Times called “Save the Gaiters!”. Sure enough, this was a piece about how people should not be so quick to toss their gaiters. Apparently even more studies are being done that show that gaiters are alright after all. The upshot was that any covering is better than none.

Naturally, I was annoyed by this news… but I was even more annoyed by some of the comments. Some of the comments were very good and insightful. For instance, one mom wrote that gaiters were the only covering her autistic son could tolerate. Another wrote that he preferred wearing gaiters because he wears hearing aids and they cost $6000. When he’s worn the usual face masks, the over the ear loops have knocked out his expensive hearing aids. Someone else wrote that they like the gaiters for exercising, since they are easy to pull up and down. I thought these were all good points, worthy of considering.

But then, not surprisingly, along came the virtue signalers… people who seem to think that face coverings are awesome and should be something we all wear forevermore. One person wrote about how the mask they wear is five layers thick and passes the “Bill Nye candle test” (if you can blow out a candle while wearing a mask, it’s no good). I felt like handing the person a cookie. The same commenter wrote that he or she was about to correct someone in a store who was wearing a gaiter because the news had reported the gaiters were no good. S/he wrote that in the end, s/he didn’t say anything to the gaiter wearer and was glad for that. You know what? Me too. Who appointed that person “mask police”, anyway? I can pretty much imagine how I would have reacted if some busybody stranger gave me unsolicited advice about my face covering. My eyes would have said it all.

Other people pointed out that the constantly changing guidelines about COVID-19 are very frustrating to people, causing a lot of them to just “throw up their hands”. I agree with that comment. The guidelines have been changing constantly ever since this became an issue months ago. The fact is, most people have no idea what to do. Not even the scientists do. That’s why the advice is constantly changing. Oh, but try and tell that to some people… (which I don’t, because that’s a big waste of time).

More people were acting like experts– good students of Google, who think they are up on all the COVID-19 research. But opinions seem to differ on whose opinion one should take seriously. According to Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times reporter who wrote the piece on saving the gaiters, it’s Dr. Linsey Marr of Virginia Tech, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and one of the world’s leading experts on aerosols. But I’m sure other people have their favorite experts on this topic… and some people fancy themselves as more knowledgeable about this subject than they actually are.

I know that I’ve already covered this topic extensively. I still hate wearing masks and I hope that something better comes along that makes them obsolete. They do cause problems for a significant number of people, and they are inconvenient, uncomfortable, and a reminder of how much things suck right now. I wore a mask this morning when I went to turn in a new passport application. As I left the building where we turned in the paperwork, I noticed how the mask obscured my vision. I had to pull it down from my eyes so I wouldn’t trip on the stairs and face plant in the parking lot. I do that enough when I’m not wearing a fucking mask.

I do cooperate with the rules, but I’m not particularly happy about it. And I don’t think I have to be happy– which is yet another attitude about masks that I find irritating. Some people are going around preaching about the wonders of face masks and how we should all cheerfully do our parts. But the reality is, face masks suck for a lot of people. Some people can’t stand to wear them. Some people can’t communicate as easily because of them. Wearing them is definitely not the ideal, and not something that we should just accept from now on. If we simply accept the masks as the status quo, what incentive do we have to find a way to beat COVID-19?

People have every right to be upset about what’s going on right now. We’re all in this together, that’s true, and maybe griping or being grumpy about face masks isn’t productive. But neither is “toxic positivity”. Sometimes, things just plain suck, and it’s okay to acknowledge that. It’s okay to hate face masks, and to be irritated by cheerleaders who insist that face masks will save humanity (they won’t). It’s alright to be pissed off that people are dying alone in hospitals, even if they don’t have the virus. It’s alright to be angry that people have lost their jobs, and some are losing their homes, and young people are being denied rites of passage like attending college, going to football games and dances, hanging out in cafes, and being with their friends. Acknowledging how much this blows isn’t a bad thing. Hell, maybe it might spur some smart people into action so that this era will be in the past sooner, rather than later.

There’s even a good article about “toxic positivity” in the Washington Post today. It’s basically about how people should have the right not to be okay if they’re not okay. It’s okay not to give in to cognitive dissonance. It’s also okay to realize that we don’t always have to be cheerful and upbeat. I will grant that staying in a cranky place isn’t helpful, but neither is ignoring the pain within ourselves or in other people.

I’m getting pretty tired of the relentlessly cheerful folks. I’m tired of people who have no tolerance for naysayers and feel like they need to school them. Sometimes the naysayers have valid points and ought to be heard. I think the guy who prefers gaiters due to his hearing aids is a perfect example of someone who should be heard. People who don’t wear hearing aids probably don’t consider why the ear loops might present a problem for those people. People who are neurotypical probably don’t consider why a parent with an autistic child outfits their child with a gaiter instead of a face mask. But they sure have no problem judging others.

I have a friend who wrote a “delightful” post about how she had met a friend for lunch. She wrote about how she didn’t bother with lipstick because of the mask. Then she posted a picture of herself and the other person, grinning behind their masks as they sat in front of food and coffee. Naturally, this picture was simply for show, since as soon as the camera was put away, they took off those masks so they could eat and drink. So what the fuck was the point of that post? Here’s a cookie. You did your part. Good girl. *Sigh*

The fact is, people are going to get sick whether or not they wear a face mask, a gaiter, or nothing at all. Sometimes, shit just happens. When shit happens, it sucks. I did read that South Africa has reported a much diminished flu season this year due to the widespread use of face masks, and that’s a great thing. But COVID-19 is a lot more contagious than the flu is. It’s going to be a problem for a long time. It’s okay to acknowledge that and realize it sucks. Positivity has its place, and I’m not saying it’s good to dwell in the bad. But trying to force people to be positive is a toxic habit. And if people are doing anything at all to show solidarity– even if the media says they’re “wrong”– people should appreciate it and leave them alone.

I’m glad to be in Europe, where people seem to be a lot more pragmatic about this stuff. People cooperate for the common good, but they don’t crow about it incessantly. They don’t nag people to be happy when they don’t feel happy. And I’ve found that in Europe, people seem to understand that some things just suck. We have to get through them somehow, but no one is handing out cookies for having a great attitude.